Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Dave Rowe never set out trying to follow in his father’s footsteps.In fact, the folk artist spent the first decade of his life watching his dad Tom Rowe perform as part of the popular trio Schooner Fare with no real thought that he, too, might become a professional musician.

“I had absolutely no desire to be in music at all,” Mr. Rowe says from his home in Maine. “Until I was probably 10 or 11, and I decided it’d be a good idea to take up the piano. … As I was looking for a piano teacher, I was cornered by a school band director who needed a tuba.”

That unlikely start propelled him from tuba to piano to singing in choirs to playing bass guitar and ultimately ending up in a band alongside his father. Tom Rowe, who passed away two years ago this month, will be honored in a tribute Saturday in Alexandria as part of the 21st Annual World Folk Music Association benefit concert.

This year’s program specifically honors folk singers from New England, and the tribute to the elder Rowe includes performances by the Dave Rowe Trio, the surviving members of Schooner Fare and Tom Rowe’s longtime music partner Denny Breau.

Also on the bill for the show is Tom Paxton, Noel Paul Stookey, Tom Rush, The Shaw Brothers, Bill Morrissey, The Nields, Gordon Bok, Cindy Kallet and Side by Side.

Besides returning to a single-night-only concert format, the benefit show is also in a new venue this year: the Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center at Northern Virginia Community College.

It was perfect timing that brought two generations of Rowes together in a band.

Tom Rowe, who sang and played bass guitar and tin whistle, had formed Schooner Fare with brothers Chuck and Steve Romanoff in the fall of 1975, combining traditional folk, Celtic and sea songs with original tunes that echoed those styles. Dave Rowe recalls that in the early 1990s, as Schooner Fare scaled down its touring schedule, his father still itched for the road.

At the same time, Dave Rowe — who had spent his early days playing bass and singing with the famed Makem Brothers before moving on to several other bands — was looking for a new musical outlet.

So the father-son partnership was born. It would last for about a decade under the witty name Rowe by Rowe and, finally, Turkey Hollow.

Mr. Breau, who played in a high school band with Tom Rowe, joined the two a few years into the project, helping them add a three-part harmony to their sound.

“The three of us had more fun than three guys probably ever deserved to have playing music,” Mr. Rowe says.

When his father died from cancer in January 2004, Dave Rowe found himself at a musical crossroads. He couldn’t imagine performing as Turkey Hollow without his father, but had no alternative ideas.

Then came a call from Mr. Breau asking him if he could pick up a performance. Mr. Rowe agreed and asked two musician friends — bassist Kevin O’Reilly and fiddle/mandolin player Edward Howe — to join him.

Twenty-four hours later the three were playing a pub on St. Patrick’s Day, and the Dave Rowe Trio was born.

“There was no rehearsal, no nothing. We just went in and played,” says Mr. Rowe, who sings as well as plays guitar and piano. “We were all flying by the seat of our pants.”

Since his father passed away, there have been yearly tributes in his home state of Maine, but Mr. Rowe has wanted to have something in the Washington area, home to one of Schooner Fare’s strongest fan bases. The WFMA benefit concert seemed a fitting place, as both Rowe by Rowe and Turkey Hollow have played the shows over the years, he says.

Having learned much from his father over the years, Mr. Rowe likes to share his father’s favorite sayings after playing a great show.

“He always used to say ‘Hey, we fooled ‘em again,’ ” Mr. Rowe says with a chuckle. ” ‘And no one got hurt. At least not seriously.’ Those were words to live by and we’re going to have a great time at this concert.”

• • •

The Mooney Suzuki is not the kind of band that lets its audience passively listen to it. The New York outfit is famed for its high-energy shows, with music that harkens back to the garage rock of the 1960s and a lead singer, Sammy James Jr., who radiates the kind of rock-star cockiness best epitomized by Mick Jagger.

Despite the group’s retro sound, it actually formed in 1996 and gained an underground following before releasing its first major-label album on Columbia Records in 2004. In the meantime, it’s also had its music featured in a television beer commercial and in the title credits to the movie “School of Rock.”

Check them out when they play the Black Cat in the District tomorrow night and be prepared to move your feet. The band won’t settle for anything less.

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